The original idea to use recycled telephone wire for baskets reportedly come from security workers on the graveyard shift in South Africa.
Zulu Wire Baskets
To pass the hours away they would often wind and weave brightly coloured bits of telephone wire around their night sticks.
Most baskets are woven from the bottom up whereas with wire weaving it is done from the top down. These inventive weavers start with a thick wire at the top rim of the basket and then work their way down, pulling each wire taut against a form to create the basket’s shape.
About the wire
• Recycled wire is rarely used anymore because of its scarcity and also due to the wire being re-used, the basket is of a lesser quality.
• Weavers are now using an annealed steel core wire that looks just like telephone wire as it is more economical for them.
• The wire used today is custom manufactured in special colours using some recycled and all lead-free materials. The wire is manufactured in South Africa.
These unique baskets are especially functional and can be washed in warm, soapy water.
Brightly coloured telephone wires are used to great creative effect, decoratively covering objects such as bottles and walking sticks, or made into plates and baskets.
Designs utilize traditional beadwork patterns and have been extended to include figuration and text, usually depicting objects or animals in the artist’s daily lives or text that has some personal or social meaning.
The other style that has now developed is a soft wire method, which utilizes traditional Zulu Ilala Palm weaving techniques. The artists do not coil the wire and instead weave it creating beautiful colourful, stylish shapes combining patterns of spirals, swirls and dots.